Ken Parfitt, the love of my life, has left this world to be with his Lord forevermore. He left behind a history of service to God that many men would wish for.
Ken was raised in a small town in Western Upstate New York and had an aptitude for two things: electronics and humor. He narrowed down his college choices to LeTourneau College and began attending in the fall of 1982. He was 17 when he arrived on campus. One of the main reasons he chose LeTourneau was the fact that it was a Christian college. He chose to work to get an Electrical Engineering Technology degree and did well his first semester. He didn’t like the heat of East Texas, but he enjoyed the many activities on campus. His humor showed up time and again as he and his dorm mates planned activities to pass the time between studies. When he later lived off campus, he made some poor personal choices and his relationship with God was weakened. Then he met me at work at the local newspaper and I challenged every one of his beliefs about God. It was a lot of work for him to prove me wrong on every point, because I had been raised in a cult (WCG) and I was as indoctrinated as they get. But he had many good professors to help him dig out from the Bible the proofs of what he believed so that he could show them to me. And the good thing about LeTourneau was that these were not his theology professors. They were his welding professor, his computer professor, his electronics professor. He patiently kept pointing me to the Jesus of the Bible, and I was finally saved by Jesus’ blood alone. Gone were my law-keeping and my reliance on membership. In their place was a sealed promise from God the Father to keep me until Christ came for me. We married after this and he spent two years as a married student, working full-time and caring for his new wife and son. He graduated in the spring of 1988.
Ken sent out resumes to every EET alumni in the alumni book and got two job interviews. One was in hot Dallas and one was in balmy San Diego. He was offered both jobs and it did not take him long to choose San Diego, working for the Convair Division of General Dynamics as a failure analysis engineer. Away we moved in August 1988, one month after his father died of brain cancer. In San Diego we struggled to find a church to serve in, but never felt like an important part of either one we attended. The Lord taught us much about people who refer to God but don’t mean what the Bible means when using common Christian terms. We had our second baby there and then moved back to his home state to be closer to and be a help to his mother.
He began working at Chloride Electro Networks as a test engineer and we bought a house eight months later. Soon after that we began the process of upgrading the house, which took a total of 11 years. This house renovation was an excellent education in itself. Not only did he improve his family’s living conditions, but he also gained many construction skills that he subsequently used to bless other families. He usually used his vacation weeks to work on the house. All the while he cheerfully kept his family faithfully attending church, helping his mother, and serving other people with his electronic, construction, and automotive skills. And perhaps best of all, he was a wonderfully-hospitable man, inviting many people into our home over the years, to feed them like kings and take an interest in their lives.
We had the rest of our eight children at home, most of them in this first house that we bought. I felt strongly that we should homeschool, and so he agreed to find out more about it. After a seminar or two and discussions with others who taught their children at home, he agreed that it would be the best thing academically and spiritually. So we began in the fall of 1992 and have been homeschooling ever since. Ken showed himself to be the best teacher of us two by far, and the children all looked forward to the subjects they could do with Dad in the evening. This was in addition to gradually teaching them a sort of on-going industrial arts class as he continually included them in the house renovations. It was a blessing to him that his first five children were boys. They became a sort of father-and-sons construction company by the time his soul left this world.
Besides the occasional camping trip, one of the most widely-influencing things he chose for our family to do was to help at an after-school center that was started by our church in the fall of 1998. We decided to take the whole family and so our children learned to teach Christianity by living it before the community children. These children got to see a whole family interacting for two hours three times a week. I believe this was as important an influence on them as the Bible lessons we taught every day that the center was open. Most children came from a home that had been broken in one way or another.
Because of the poor financial position of the company Ken worked for, he was led by the Lord to look for another job in the summer of 1995. He was hired by Harris RF Communications in Rochester, NY, again as a test engineer. Immediately he began seeing financial rewards for all he had been giving to God even when we were poor college students. Ken was so impressed by the giving practices of R.G. LeTourneau, that he had been trying to increase his percentage of giving every year of our marriage. The Lord began to open the windows of heaven and pour out the blessing He had promised. Ken used this to support several missionaries personally, striving to get the Gospel of Jesus Christ to several corners of the world. The first missionary couple he ever took on was Larry and Linda Whiting, who still do work with MAF. Larry and Linda graduated from LeTourneau around the same time that Ken did.
We learned of a new kind of church around the time of Ken’s job change, but the Lord did not arrange for us to seriously investigate it until 2001. This church has an alternative to the traditional Sunday School which divided families up by age. This alternative is called Family School and the teacher is the father. The first hour of each church service is spent in testing Bible memory which was assigned the week before, introducing the text or concept of the next lesson, and then suggesting ways for the fathers to make them more understandable to their children during the coming days of the week. This serves to knit the families together and combat the growing trend in today’s churches of the youth eventually abandoning God and seeking fulfillment in the world and its deceiving activities. This new church seeks out and arranges many avenues of service in which the whole family can participate, from helping at an air show to planting flowers for the community to helping clean up after a hurricane. They also have several nursing home ministries and regular help to an inner-city mission in place. The children enjoy doing things with their parents and friends and the parents are able to explain the reason these needy people have problems through the sin in their pasts. Our children were especially blessed to help clean up and repair homes in Gulfport, Mississippi, with their dad and church friends after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In 2003, Ken’s company sent our family to England to help start a factory there. His company built military radios and the British government wanted their radio order to be built in their country by their citizens. We bought some English history books and used the time there as a huge field trip. We also learned much about personal evangelism from a small Baptist church that was not run by the head of state! When Ken finally completed the assignment twenty months later, we could look back and see how God has used this to teach us soul-winning and street evangelism. We had known of it at our new church, but it was easier to join in and learn at this smaller church. Ken found a new ability to speak to others out on a city street. He was always polite and logical about it, but passionate at the same time. His good humor helped him through some criticism, and he was happy to suffer even a little for Christ.
When we moved back to New York in the fall of 2004, we had no place to live. We had sold the house we spent so many years renovating, and we had been able to live so economically in an expensive country that our cost-of-living-difference from his company had built up enough by God’s loving provision to build a house on some land we had bought in 1999. We first had to convert our storage pole-barn into a temporary house that fall. More construction skills were learned and this time our boys were older and quite capable of helping their dad, especially when he made it fun with little hammering competitions and such activities along the way. He always took time, though, to participate in church activities arranged to include the children. The boys all learned to do street-preaching eventually. This was always done in a meek attitude and a deep concern for the souls of lost sinners whom Jesus died for.
For one reason or another, Ken and the boys did not actually begin building a house until the fall of 2007. It was amazing to watch them work together with small earth-moving equipment to dig a basement. The oldest boy was 21 and the youngest was 11. The ones too young to drive were right in there with the laser level and other high-tech tools. After the winter freeze and spring ground-water were past, they began building the insulated-concrete-form house they had dreamed of. New skills were learned and old ones were improved. Ken once told me though, “I will not let this house own me. I want to always be available to serve the Lord when He needs me.” Consequently, many good construction days were given to helping people move, repairing friends’ vehicles, roofing, repairing homes, repairing or installing appliances, and joining with the church in public ministry. Ken had a good bass voice and almost always was a member of the choir wherever we went to church. Our new church did not have a constant choir commitment, but Ken was happy to help spread the Gospel at the special concerts arranged to bring the Gospel to the community. He was a great inspiration to his sons to sing in public and they have all followed his example. He also began learning cello in England when they began lessons, and it was a treat to have Dad sit down and play hymns with them. Another treat was to play four-square with him. He never let them win, but he was their biggest cheerleader during the games. His ready smile made life a pleasure. Perhaps their biggest treat was attending Bible Institute classes at our church with him once a week during the school year.
Building a house on nights and weekends took a long time. In fact, they were building a small house onto the front of our “temporary” pole-barn house, so that we could convert the whole pole-barn into bedrooms and a school room. With all the stops to serve others in need, Ken only got his certificate of occupancy the day before Thanksgiving Day in 2010. He was very happy to have it, even though much trim work and flooring needed to be done still, besides adding the new bedrooms in the pole-barn.
At work, Ken made a great change in his life. He had not openly showed his Christianity at his first two jobs after graduation and now he was determined to let everyone at his new job know that he loved the Lord and was not ashamed of it from the first day of work at Harris. He attended a Bible study that was held in one of the rooms once a week, and then started his own Bible study when he was moved to a new building. A fellow Christian, who also attended our new church, began singing across the street from the main building every Monday and Ken joined him as much as he could, even through the winter months and the rainy days. In the last few years, he went to the downtown area of Rochester on Tuesdays at lunch and walked around handing out Gospel tracts and talking with anyone who showed an interest in their eternal destination. He often talked to co-workers about the Lord, began praying aloud before company group parties, and even wrote to the president of the Rochester division of Harris and asked how he could pray for him and the company. His example of cheerfulness, helpfulness, kindness, and openness about his relationship with the Lord was an inspiration to his co-workers and he was able to lead some to the Lord. Fellow Christians admired his example and began following it much more after his death. His diplomatic handling of problems between employees and his diligence and competence eventually got him promoted to Test Engineering Manager with seventy employees reporting to him.
On the morning of Dec. 14, 2010, Ken got up at 5:30 as usual and prayed for thirty minutes before he read the next portion in his Bible-through-the-year plan, which he had done for eight years. Since I had unexpectedly awakened early, I was up to read part of it to him as he cooked himself some special sausages I had gotten a few days before. We discussed a few next projects to do to the house, and then he left as close as he could to his usual 30 minutes early for work. We kissed goodbye as always and said, “I love you.” as always. Our oldest son said goodbye to me and they left for work together. Our son read a little more of the Bible to his dad, as he often did on the way to work. It was a little snowy but they did not realize there was black ice on the road. A slower truck beside them suddenly swerved twice and then plunged down the right bank. Ken pulled onto the shoulder and they both went down to see if the driver was OK and needed any help. Finding out that he had already called a tow truck, they went back up the bank to the waiting Subaru station wagon. Allen got to the car before his dad and got in. As he bent down to move his satchel at his feet, he heard breaking glass and felt the vehicle hurtling down the same bank. When it came to rest, and he realized he was not hurt, he wondered why his father had not come to check on him. He looked back up the bank and saw his dad lying a little way down on the bank. He got out and ran to him, calling his name. He dad did not respond. Others had already stopped to help Ken. Allen called me at home and told me that there had been a bad accident and that his dad was hurt and would not wake up. It was only about 10 minutes from the house, so I said I would come immediately. I took my son who had just gotten a license a few months before, and I decided I had better drive, since I had a little experience on slippery roads. We arrived to see a big pile of blankets and coats on Ken and a few people around him. I immediately noticed that is sounded like he was snoring. I thought this was a good sign at the time, though now I believe it was telling me that he was asleep in Christ (I Cor. 15:18; I Thess. 4:13-18). I could see that his legs were badly broken, and I thought they would probably have to be amputated. I knelt down in the snow by him, being warned not to move his neck, though I wanted so badly to hug him and let him know I was there. I began praying, not only for God to do His will for Ken, but also to use this to lead someone to eternal life. There were at least three people around him at that time, and I hoped earnestly that at least one of them would be saved.
The ambulance finally came and they started helping him breathe and got him on a body board, and then into the ambulance. My two sons and I followed in the all-wheel-drive vehicle I had come in, and we proceeded to take 1½ hours to cover the usual 30-minute route. I found out later that the ambulance took about half that time itself, partly due to another accident between Ken’s and the hospital. The bad weather had prevented them from being able to send a mercy flight helicopter. On the way there, [My son who was in the accident told me that another vehicle had lost control and skidded into Ken just as he had stood beside the car, about to get in the driver’s door. He was crushed between the two vehicles and then thrown into the air to land on the spot where I came to him.] we [also] called home a few times and told the children how bad I thought it was and found out that they were being taken by Ken’s brother to their grandmother’s house. The oldest left at home that morning was seventeen.
At the hospital, they told me of the many broken bones he had and their usual strategies to help them stay in position for healing. There were only three hours to save the broken arteries in his legs. They also planned to put a catheter in his skull to monitor the slight bleeding they had seen on the CAT scan. [A policeman told us that another vehicle had lost control and skidded into Ken’s car just as he had been about to enter the driver’s door. This had crushed Ken between the two vehicles and then thrown him through the air to land where I came to him.] We went into a private waiting room and were gradually joined by more and more pastors and members of our church. After an hour or two, we were told by a new arrival that a local radio talk show personality was telling the story on the radio over and over again of Ken’s accident and my coming to pray for him. This personality had often used profanity on his radio show and so I had not listened to him for many years. I was not that happy that he was talking about us, but there was nothing I could do about it. They tried to tell me that he was being reverent and they even tried to get a radio to pick up the program inside the hospital walls. But about that time a doctor came and told me that they had rushed Ken to emergency brain surgery because there was much more bleeding than they had thought. I numbly continued to pray and we found that we needed to move to a bigger private waiting room, in the ICU area.
We continued to pray, sing, and read portions of the Bible while we waited. Sometime later the boys and I were told that they were trying to stop internal bleeding and that his blood pressure was dangerously low. Late in the afternoon, we were told that they been able to stop the bleeding, but that they had not seen brain activity since 2 pm. I asked if he was brain dead, expecting to have to tell them not to keep him alive. But they said they could not determine that because his body had swollen from the brain damage, which had affected the fluid regulation of his body. His eyes were swollen shut and so they could not check dilation, part of the test for brain death. I was finally able to go to him in his room at about 6 pm and we continually brought people in to talk to him, sing to him, and pray for him. I held his cold hand and wondered if God was going to do a mighty miracle that night. He was so cold his blood would not clot and he had so little blood that he could not warm up. They were afraid to move him to remove damp blankets, and so he stayed cold that way. His blood pressure became artificially stable through the administration of many drugs and blood product. I was afraid to have our other children come because the weather was still bad. Two men from church finally said they would get the other two boys (a third son had come in the morning from his job). It took three hours for them to make the usual hour round-trip. Just before they got there, Ken’s blood pressure again took a dip and the medical staff worked diligently to help him stay alive. I was afraid the boys would miss his last minutes, but his body was again stabilized and the boys got to speak to him and tell him how much they loved him. Though they weren’t little boys, they were weeping as they told him. Many times our friends gradually built up into a group in his ICU room, singing hymns to the glory of God. There was supposed to be a limit of three people in the room at a time, but it was hard to stay away in his time of trouble. The doctor told me that he did not expect Ken to make it, but that he also had seen several people survive that he had not expected to survive and that it was all in God’s hands. At around 4:45 am, I was finally given an answer to my prayers of what to do. I became convinced that his soul was not keeping his heart beating. It was only the drugs that sustained the body at this point. Ken was not there any more. We had talked to him, even though his ears were swollen shut. Now I knew he was beyond hearing. I became sure that if his body did not stop on its own by 7 am, we were to shut off the drugs. I knew he would not want all of his blood type to be used up, since it kept leaking out of his body as they put it in. He had been a blood donor ever since I knew him, and he would not want someone go without the chance to receive his rare blood type just so we could keep his body alive a little longer. I curled up in a big chair and finally slept from 5-6 am. I did not look forward to telling the boys my decision, because I knew they loved him so much. But they surprised me by saying he would have wanted it stopped long before. With everyone in agreement, we told the neurosurgeon, who had recently come to make morning rounds, that we decided it was time to turn the drugs off. He seemed relieved and told the staff to prepare to do that. We all said our last goodbyes to Ken and had our picture taken beside him. At 7:04 am they unhooked the last IV and turned off the respirator. While a group again gathered to sing God’s praises, I expected him to die in one minute, but his heart did not stop beating until 7:20. It had been 24 hours and 10 minutes since he had been crushed between the two vehicles.
I had called my mother-in-law the day before to ask her if she wanted to tell our three daughters that their daddy might die, but she did not think she should be the one to tell them. But by the time I got to her house, they knew. There were several relatives there, so I don’t know who told them, but they accepted it with the faith their daddy had taught them. They knew that he has eternal life and that “whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (Jn. 11:26a) The rest of the verse says, “Believest thou this?” Ken would ask you the same thing. We all know that not everyone who attends a Christian college actually has a saving relationship with Jesus Christ when he or she arrives. The many messages in chapel and by visiting missionaries soften the heart and show them that they never truly gave their whole selves to their Creator to use as He wishes. Ken Parfitt grew through the years and saw that he needed to challenge many people who claimed to be saved but did not show faith by their lives’ works. Ken really cared and would have been honored if he could die so that you could be stirred from your comfort zone, call on the Lord to wash away your sins in His blood, and take up your cross to follow Him for the rest of your life, wherever He sees fit to use you.
The account of the accident as told by the radio personality who turned out to be one of the three people with Ken when I arrived can be read here: http://www.lonsberry.com/readcomments.cfm?story=3027
-Jamie Ruth Parfitt, wife of Kenneth David Parfitt
Kenneth David Parfitt, 46, of Geneseo, passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010, at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY. He was struck by a vehicle on I-390 near the Avon exit 24 hours earlier after assisting a motorist that slid off the road.
Ken was born to David and Joyce Parfitt on September 30, 1964, in Warsaw, NY. Ken was a member at the Old Paths Bible Baptist Church in Holley, NY. Ken also took part in several mission trips including an evangelistic trip to Romania and the Hurricane Katrina relief effort in 2005. Ken’s greatest desire was to please his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and see souls turn to Him for salvation. He was a loving husband and father and a patient teacher, both in home schooling and in homebuilding, in addition to many other things. He was constantly sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ at work, on the streets, and everywhere.
He is survived by his loving wife, Jamie, and eight children: Allen, 24; Elliott, 21; Trevor, 19; Dylan, 17; Reese, 14; Annabelle, 11; Naomi, 9; and Karen, 6. He is also survived by his mother, Joyce Parfitt, of Geneseo; brothers Christopher (Elizabeth) of Perry and Steven (Laurie) of Livonia, and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his father, David Roy Parfitt, Jr., on July 13, 1988. Calling hours will be held on Friday, December 17, at Christ Community Church, 26-28 Center St., Geneseo, NY, 14454, from 4 P.M. – 8 P.M. The memorial service will be held at Old Paths Bible Baptist Church, 4782 Hall Rd., Holley, NY, 14470, on Saturday, Dec. 18, at 11 A.M. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the missions fund at Old Paths Bible Baptist Church.